Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How Did Life Originate?

[E. coli, a common bacteria]

The earth formed 4.5 billion years ago. It was then bombarded with huge meteorites for 600 million years. Bacteria appeared about 4 billion years ago, or approximately just as the bombardment was ending.

The New York Times reports that according to Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Laboratory in Mountain View, Calif., the rapid appearance of complex life was  “like Athena springing from the head of Zeus”. In the same article, John Sutherland, a biochemist at Cambridge University in England, said geologists and astronomers were more interested in talking and speculating about the origin of life than chemists were, even though it is basically a problem of “nitty-gritty chemistry.” The reason, he explained, is that “chemists know how hard it is.”

In fact, bacteria, although the simplest form of life, are incredibly complex. Scientists cannot begin to create a bacterium from simple chemicals and even creating a computer simulation of one E. coli has not yet been completed and will be extremely challenging.

Andrew H. Knoll the Fisher Professor of Natural History and a Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University has stated "We don't know how life started on this planet." and describes it as being a great scientific mystery.

Of course it will remain a great mystery, as long as scientists insist on denying the obvious answer: God did it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

How Many Hasidic Rebels Are There?

[what losers]

The ultra-Orthodox gathering concerning the Internet in New York City last night attracted 60,000 attendees. The New York Times reported "several opponents" of the rally gathered outside the stadium.

Of course this doesn't necessarily prove anything. The other Hasidic Rebels may just have been too drunk or stoned to make it.

Orthodox Jewish Clothes: What They Mean

[the clothes make the man, or woman]

Clothing plays a practical role in protecting us from the elements. In cold climates, it prevents hypothermia while in deserts it can provide protection from the sun and wind.

Clothing however also plays an important role in communication. When we get dressed, we are often making various statements about ourselves. Obviously, professionals who wear a uniform such as law enforcement or the military are conveying their special roles with their clothing. Outlaw motorcyclists wear special vests indicating their rank and membership. Corporate executives usually wear a special type of outfit indicating their status - the business suit. Mark Zuckerberg, new Internet billionaire, wears a hoodie, supposedly to communicate to the public that he is an artist, not a salesman.

When a Jew gets dressed in the morning, what statement does he want to make?

In Judaism, sex outside marriage is prohibited. A Jewish woman wants to communicate that she is not available sexually. Clothing indicating sexual availability would include clothing revealing too much skin, wearing tight clothing, long, loose hair, high heels and brightly colored clothing. Therefore a Jewish woman's priority is to avoid dressing in a way which waves a flag in front of men reading "Come and get it!" On the contrary, an Orthodox Jewish woman in public wants to send a message "Men: leave me alone."

For men, clothing has little to do with sex appeal. However  for an Orthodox man, clothing is significant in other ways. Tzitzis are a Biblical commandment. Wearing a beard is Biblically mandated. Wearing a skullcap is an ancient Jewish tradition. Among most Hasidic Jews, an elaborate special dress code is customary. Essentially, the Jewish man, when dressing, wants to communicate that he is first of all an Orthodox Jew and additionally he may be communicating which Orthodox subgroup he is a member of. The Jewish man's clothing are a special uniform announcing "I'm a Jew".

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Darwin: Wrong Again

According to United States Census data released today, most babies born in America are not white.

In 1871, Charles Darwin predicted that in the not distant future, the Nordic peoples would wipe out the darker people.

So much for that.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Quote of the Day

[Professor Assaf]

"One of the most common factors leading religious youth away from the fold is the contradiction between sexual life and religious life. When you’re Orthodox and also a maturing young adult, you’re unable to express your sexuality, and that leads to significant inner conflict. Especially for men; where it starts with masturbation."

From an interview with David Assaf professor, Department of Jewish History, Tel Aviv University, Israel; himself formerly Orthdodox

pointed this out myself some time ago, and was greeted with vehement denials from Orthodox drop outs.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The New York Times and God

 [The Monsey Vizhnitz Rebbe and Michael Jackson - comrades in arms?]

The New York Times has been criticized by some people as having a liberal political agenda. I have the impression that the word "liberal" is being used in a pejorative sense and refers to atheism and socialism.

I had never really noticed this bias too much nor thought about it too much, until today when the Times wrote about something I happen to know quite a lot about - ultra-Orthodox Jews.

In an article entitled Ultra-Orthodox Shun Their Own for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse the Times makes a few interesting points.

First of all it mentions that sexual abuse rates in the ultra-Orthodox world are roughly the same as those in the general population. The Times knows this because "scholars believe" it. We are not told who the scholars are nor why they believe this. In reality, the relatively low divorce rate in the ultra-Orthodox community, probably one tenth of what it is in the general population, along with the fact that single motherhood is unheard of, should imply that sexual abuse will be quite a bit more rare. Step-fathers and step-boyfriends are a frequent source of abuse.

Secondly, the Times explains that the very low number of convicted Orthodox sex offenders is not because there are very few Orthodox sex offenders (since, those anonymous scholars believe that isn't so) but rather it's because ultra-Orthodox Judaism teaches its followers to commit perjury and tamper with witnesses in order to help fellow Jews to avoid prison. In other words, ultra-Orthodox Judaism is a religion which preaches and practices felonies. In fact, no ultra-Orthodox Jew has been convicted of obstruction of justice in a sex abuse case, however the Times heard from several people that the practice is universal and it is generally encouraged by ultra-Orthodox rabbis.

So there you have it - rather than celebrate and admire the rarity of sexual molestation in the ultra-Orthodox community, as crime statistics and logic would indicate, the Times discovers just the opposite - plenty of abuse plus a religion which preaches serious crime, all based on almost no evidence.

You might however argue that this isn't a case of liberal bias - it's a case of anti-child abuse bias. Perhaps whenever the New York Times hears about any hint of pedophilia, they automatically rush to judgement and assume the worst.

However is that really the case? How would the Times handle an atheist or agnostic suspected pedophile?

Well, we need not wonder. Consider the case of Michael Jackson.

Mr. Jackson was accused of child abuse in 1993 and was tried for child abuse in 2005. In 1990 he paid someone $2 million in order to convince him not to press charges for child abuse. He also owned a mansion with a private amusement park where he often invited children to be his guests. Additionally, although Michael Jackson lived to the age of 50, only one adult has ever claimed to have had sex with him, Lisa Marie Presley in 1995. Now of course there isn't anything wrong with being a wealthy, world famous pop star who is celibate and who loves to have small children as guests. And he was never convicted of anything. But on the other hand, being a multi-millionaire, it surely would not have been difficult for Jackson to purchase the silence of many prosecution witnesses and to obtain the cooperation of many defense witnesses, making convicting him impossible. In fact, he apparently did exactly that in 1990.

Has the New York Times been hostile in it's coverage of Michael Jackson, emphasizing the near certainty that the pop icon was a child molester and guilty of obstruction of justice? Not to my knowledge. The Times obituary of Jackson was glowing.

So why the difference in attitude between alleged ultra-Orthodox Jewish child abuse and alleged Michael Jackson child abuse? My guess is because Michael Jackson did not openly speak about belief in God; he may well have been agnostic or even atheist. Therefore he's part of Team New York Times. On the other hand, ultra-orthodox Jews constantly speak about God, meaning that they are the enemy and they must be smeared.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Cadaver Dogs: the Nose Knows

[ready to go]

I am a little bit of a fan of true crime stories, and often dogs are used to find the remains of a homicide victim.

Cadaver dogs are trained to locate and follow the scent of decomposing human flesh.

Dogs' sense of smell is far more acute than that of humans – the nose of a German shepherd contains about 200 million olfactory cells, while a human nose has about 20 million.

In a recent study, the forensic pathologist Lars Oesterhelweg, then at the University of Bern in Switzerland, and colleagues tested the ability of three Hamburg State Police cadaver dogs to pick out – of a line-up of six new carpet squares – the one that had been exposed for no more than 10 minutes to a recently deceased person. Several squares had been placed beneath a clothed corpse within three hours of death, when some organs and many cells of the human body are still functioning. Over the next month, the dogs did hundreds of trials in which they signalled the contaminated square with 98 per cent accuracy, falling to 94 per cent when the square had been in contact with the corpse for only two minutes. The research concluded that cadaver dogs were an "outstanding tool" for crime-scene investigation.

In one study involving four dogs and their handlers, anthropologist Keith Jacobi of the University of Alabama says cadaver dogs were able to detect remains at all stages of decomposition. Performance varied between dogs, but some could locate skeletonised remains buried in an area of 300ft by 150ft. "The few single human vertebrae I used in the study were well over 25 years old, and dry bone," Jacobi says. "This made the discovery of one of these vertebrae, which we buried in dense woods 2ft deep, by a cadaver dog pretty remarkable."

Nobody really knows how they do it.

Mark Harrison, national search adviser for the UK National Policing Improvement Agency in Wyboston, Bedfordshire says: "If you ask me, 'Will a machine replace dogs?' I would say no."

This miracle of technology, beyond what any humans can devise or even understand, is an amazing testament to God's creation.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Judaism and Feminism

[Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique]

Judaism is opposed to sexual equality.

Within the Orthodox Jewish community, the primary decision makers should be men.

First of all, only men are permitted to attend Talmudic lectures. Since all important decisions in society are based on the Talmud, this effectively excludes women from community decision making.

Second of all, in Judaism, wealth generally is in the hands of men. If someone dies and leaves a son, the son inherits all regardless of the existence of daughters. If a woman marries and owns property, the property is controlled by her husband during their marriage. If a married woman works, her earnings belong to her husband unless she waives her right to spousal support.

The fact is, however, this is little different than in other societies.

In all human societies, even those which claim to endorse the principle of equality of the sexes, men are dominant. In politics, about 80% of all leaders are male. In the business world, there were 21 women from a total of 1,226 billionaires worldwide in 2012. (In fact, New Atheists leaders are called by some "sexist".)

Going a step further, among most animals and nearly all mammals, the male is larger and more aggressive on the average than the female.

Gender equality is therefore seemingly not only against human nature, but against biology.

In my humble opinion, Judaism handles male dominance in a very humane and reasonable way. Men are given greater decision making privileges than women. On the other hand, men pay a price for this – they have much heavier religious obligations than women. Secondly, men are obligated to treat women with a level of love and respect equal to that with which they must treat other men. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) applies equally to women and to ones wife. Insulting a woman is prohibited. Striking a woman is strictly prohibited. Forced sex is strictly prohibited. A man must financially support any children he has. I am aware of one case of spousal homocide in the Orthodox community.

Other societies seem to have an ideal of sexual equality, while in reality women are plagued by constant, horrific violence and victimized by "dead beat dads". Secular men seem to tell women "You're welcome to be as masculine as you want to be and we'll toss you some token crumbs of power, while at the same time we'll treat you like garbage."

I suspect that this philosophy, of a humane approach to male dominance, is one reason why very few Orthodox women choose to leave Orthodoxy, in comparison to the number of male "dropouts". Women know that they are getting the best deal possible.